Pizza chain Papa John’s has hired Endeavor Global Marketing, the cultural marketing agency within media conglomerate Endeavor, to navigate the brand out of the complete PR storm ignited on July 11, when company founder and marketing mascot John Schnatter resigned after it was reported he used the n-word on a conference call with one of the company’s former creative agencies.
Since resigning, Schnatter has taken the company to court for forcing him to resign, made ads starring himself to prove the incident hasn’t impacted the brand image, and accused one of the brand’s former agency partners of extortion. Meanwhile, three agencies–Fallon, Initiative, and Olson Engage–all dropped Papa John’s as a client; the University of Louisville removed the company name from its stadium; Oregon State University suspended its Papa John’s sponsorship; and Major League Baseball ended a promotion while 10 of its teams (along with NFL, MLS, and other sports teams) suspended or ended sponsorship deals with the brand.
An eventful few weeks!
Now Endeavor Global Marketing, led by its parent company’s new CMO Bozoma Saint John, is taking the reins to try to repair the damage.
Papa John’s president Steve Ritchie took on the CEO role when Schnatter left the building, lighting a brown bag of brand image on fire on the doorstep on his way out. In a statement Ritchie said, “The brand is at a pivotal moment. We need to earn back the trust of the consumer, and we need to demonstrate our commitment to being inclusive. We believe Endeavor Global Marketing is the right team to help us do that.”
Adweek reported that Endeavor will begin to work across all of Papa John’s channels immediately, with a full campaign set to debut in the fall. Saint John says the resulting work won’t join the recent spate of “I’m Sorry” spots. “This isn’t an apology ad campaign,” Saint John told Adweek. “It has to be cultural and deeply moving . . . . The 120,000 employees of Papa John’s are not defined by one individual. How can we as EGM not just create a new narrative based on a value proposition, but convey what is truly inside Papa John’s?”
It appears Wall Street agrees. Jeffries has upgraded Papa John’s stock to a buy rating after downgrading it to a hold last month due to negative brand sentiment. The firm’s analysts said, “Ultimately, we recognize that the potential impact from negative sentiment on the brand is real and will make the next few quarters painful, but we believe the brand will survive.”